By Karl Terry: FNM columnist
I’ve heard it said a drunk using a plow pulled by a blind mule on a dark night laid out the streets of Portales.
The real story is that after first laying out streets parallel to the railroad, someone decided things instead needed to be squared up according to the compass. This left Portales with triangular blocks in some areas, streets that take half-block jogs and a few streets that are almost roundabouts — a very confusing situation for new people in town.
To make up for the confusing layout Portales came up with a pretty efficient naming system for the city. Numbered streets run east and west on the south side of the railroad tracks and tree names (in alphabetical order) are used north of the tracks. Letter streets run north and south from Main to the west side of town and cities, rivers, states and zodiac signs fill things out. Street name changes in the middle of the 20th century led to the sensible order.
Clovis and Tucumcari get credit for keeping the streets running in the same general direction overall but not as much credit for creativity in naming pattern.
The only weirdness in Clovis layout is the jogs in North Main and the diagonal slash of Commerce Way.
Except for a slight wobble on West Tucumcari Boulevard and a meandering Mountain Road, Tucumcari is laid out straight as a string.
Both Clovis and Tucumcari make use of numbered streets but neither makes use of the alphabet or the logic of street names in alphabetical order. You’ll never get lost in any of these cities thanks to grain elevators and Tucumcari Mountain as towering landmarks.
I’ve lived or worked in all three of these cities. All have a few street name oddities.
For instance Clovis has a No Name Street. I lived near a town named No Name in Colorado but as far as I know even No Name, Colo., didn’t have a street called No Name. I guess it must have been a long day for the Clovis city planning office that day and they just gave up.
Tucumcari’s main drag has had lots of names over the years including Route 66, Gaynelle Boulevard, Business Loop I-40 and Tucumcari Boulevard.
Clovis’ Mabry Drive is just as confusing. If you stay on it from east to west it goes from Mabry to First to Grand with just gentle curves. It also carries the highway numbers 60, 70 and 84 or the east side.
Talk about confusing folks.
Tucumcari and Clovis get kudos for actually naming some of their streets after people or things that mean something such as Lew Wallace and Fireball Drive in Clovis and Mountain Road and Lake Street in Tucumcari. Portales only named streets after three people as far as I can determine — Floyd Golden Circle, Wylie Cox Drive and Schlenker Drive.
I’ve lived on Second Street in both Portales and Tucumcari along with residences on Jackson and Laguna Streets in Tucumcari and Avenue A in Portales. I might not be able to give you exact directions to any address in the three cities but I could get you close.
In the immortal words of Daniel Boone, “I’ve never been lost but I will admit to being mighty confused for several weeks.”